Lynda Shentall, service and development manager for HIV charity George House Trust in Manchester
● Jessie is a 39-year-old asylum seeker from Zimbabwe whose claim has been refused. She was diagnosed as being HIV-positive in November 2006 along with her husband. As refused asylum seekers they had no support whatsoever including none from the National Asylum Support Service.
When I met Jessie there were several key issues. First, she was devastated by her HIV diagnosis she also had to stop her first combination of drugs because of side effects and this happened with her second combination as well. She was having investigations into her liver function and had been in hospital.
She also felt very isolated initially and wanted to meet one or two HIV-positive women rather than coming along to a busy service. The most pressing issue was destitution as the couple were facing eviction from their flat and had no way of feeding themselves or paying bills.
We offered Jessie a great deal of support and information about HIV. She also met two other HIV-positive women and this quickly gave her the confidence to access services and she now regularly attends the African service and the women’s service. She was referred to her local authority’s social services department along with her partner as it had a legal duty to support the couple.
Despite this being the case, and strong advocacy from the HIV social worker, the local authority initially refused support. The couple were immediately referred to a specialist lawyer and before he had chance to see them the local authority agreed to support the couple.
Jessie Manga is a failed asylum seeker originally from Zimbabwe and has been in the UK for five years
● It has been eight months since me and my husband were diagnosed with HIV. My husband was also told that he had tuberculoses so he had to start his medication for both since his CD4 count was very low. Now he is doing well with it all. I myself have been very unfortunate because so far I have had to stop twice on my two different combinations because of my liver. I’m still waiting for my new combination after my liver functions goes back to normal. Also I have been in and out of the hospital because of abdominal pains.
On top of all this, me and my husband are failed asylum seekers and since the diagnosis we were no longer able to look after ourselves because of sickness and hospital appointments. We were referred to George House Trust at the hospital. I was hesitant and not really sure what was going to come out of it.
I lost all my confidence and really had given up about everything since we had tried to get help with our upkeep to no avail.
The day I went to George House Trust and met Lynda was my turning point. She has helped in everything from advice, support to our upkeep. There have been hiccups with the local authority that was very frustrating but expected. But through George House Trust we now have the help we needed from the local authority, every Tuesday there is an African service that gives us the opportunity to meet with people in the same circumstance.
I still have a long journey to go because of my medication and building my confidence up again but George House Trust has been our pillar and we don’t see ourselves surviving without it.
● Jessie Manga is not her real nameContact the author
Anabel Unity Sale
This article appeared in the 7 June issue under the headline “‘The day I met Lynda was my turning point'”